My dear friend, Steve Higginbotham, once delivered a sermon on church shopping. I loved it. In fact, I have yet to a hear a sermon from him that I didn’t love. His sermon got me to thinking. We have so many visitors every Sunday at Oldham Lane that I thought it would be a good idea to approach the topic of church shopping. More specifically, what is it that we should be looking for in a church home.
Religion and churches often become externally-focused. Because of this, people tend to garner the mentality that religion, spirituality, and church is all about them. This feeds a consumer mindset, and we have not helped ourselves in this area. Through the years, many churches have catered to this mentality. They hire a Youth Minister to entertain the kids. They hire a preacher to entertain the adults. They bring in a band to entertain the masses. They develop programs to market entertainment to those who are not Christians. And don’t get me wrong, there will always be an element of entertainment present within church. We don’t want boring preachers. We don’t want a stale worship service. We don’t want a dry and lethargic Youth Minister. But, in our consumer-driven culture, church has become a caterer to the wrong audience. This model is not Biblical. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t invest in people. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do everything within our power to be accommodating to our guests. And I’m certainly not suggesting that we shouldn’t be creative in the way that we seek to reach the lost. What I am saying is that church isn’t about the consumer. When we make church about the consumer, or when we cater to a consumer mentality, we have shown what is most important to us. What should be most important to the church is not the consumer, but the Creator. That doesn’t mean the people are unimportant. The people are not unimportant, but their wishes or desires may be.
Before going to the grocery store you, more than likely, make out a list. That list includes all the things that you need and intend to pick up when you push your cart up and down the aisles at the grocery store. You may not have any fruits or vegetables on your list. In fact, your list may contain only foods that are bad for you but, hey, it’s your list. The grocery store is there to provide the consumer with whatever it is they feel they need in the realm of food as well as a few other items. So you go to the grocery store, list in hand, and you shop for the items that you think you need. That is precisely what many people do with church. They have a list in hand, or in their mind, as they hop from church to church, seeking to find the items they think they need. And here are some of the more common items on the average “Church Shopping List.”
- A playground
- A gymnasium
- An active youth group
- Beautiful building
- My friends go there
- A day care
- Comfortable seating
- Lively worship services
- Children’s Church
None of these items are bad or wrong; they’re just secondary. While they may add value to the church, they shouldn’t be determining factors. These things may be a draw. There are certain programs or amenities that enhance fellowship and promote involvement. We just have to keep them in their proper place. They shouldn’t receive top billing when we’re searching for a church. There is a bit of a fine line here. On one hand, there is nothing wrong with a church having a beautiful building, a day care, comfortable seating, a playground, etc. But, on the other hand, these things do not determine the value of a church. If a church doesn’t have these things it shouldn’t rule them out as a possible landing place for my family. A playground is a great place for the little ones to go to while the parents fellowship. A day care may be a great outreach to the community. We all want a dynamic youth group for our kids. It’s just that these are externals. They are not THE most important criteria.
So what are the most important items that should be on any church shoppers list? Might I suggest these.
- The Bible is held in highest esteem.
- They seek to know & practice the truth.
- They challenge and encourage growth among the members.
- They are passionate about evangelism.
We should want what God wants, and this certainly applies to church and the worship of Him. In the realm of consumerism, the customer is always right. However, when it comes to Christianity, the customer is always wrong; that is why Jesus died on the cross. We don’t get to call the shots. A consumer-mindset is the wrong approach because we are not the audience. The people make up the church, but it’s not our church. It belongs to our Lord. Jesus purchased it, member by member, with His own blood. It’s all about Him, not us.
See you Sunday!